In various meetings, citizens have brought their concerns about vandalism and issues with the restrooms at the city’s parks. Parks and Recreation Director Angie Whisnant briefed council members on specific problems with keeping the restrooms unlocked.
Whisnant provided pictures of the types of vandalism the park staff routinely witnesses. Staff have said the homeless have been aggressive toward them at times.
Whisnant provided information from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office that listed the number of suspicious persons reported at the city’s four park areas. Instances of criminal activity were also noted.
The parks’ operating hours are from 6:00 am until 11:00 pm. However, there are no staff members on duty to lock the restrooms at 11:00 pm. With restrooms open and unmonitored for 24 hours, staff cannot always control activity.
The city council is in the process of approving a trespass ordinance. Vice Mayor Joe Bernardini suggested that staff could contact the sheriff’s office about vandalism or other criminal activity to issue trespass warnings.
Bernardini said he is opposed to paying an individual to close restrooms when the city has available staff at the fire department who are already on duty. Council member Pat Brayton agreed with Bernardini but suggested the sheriff’s office as an option.
City manager Mark Kutney said that could be an issue in the bargaining session with the fire department.
The vendor who closes the county’s parks would do the same for the city parks, Whisnart said, but there are fewer city parks to be closed. The suggested rate is $2500 annually. Mayor Bill Kemerer said that equates to $3.25 daily.
Bernardini said the drug paraphernalia, illicit activity, human waste, and other issues in the parks aren’t limited to the restrooms. He requested an increased police presence and information as to the outcomes of the suspicious persons listed in the memo.
If there are activities scheduled in the parks, Whisnant said, they may have staff on site who could lock the restrooms. But staff are not available at 11:00 every night.
Council members agreed that “something” had to be done, and asked Kutney to provide more information at a future meeting.